At first, the topic of becoming a maker seems overwhelming. Even after a year or two, it’s still overwhelming. What does that mean? Do I have to have a 3D printer? What’s the best? How’d you do that? While I’m far from being an expert, I’ll try to put together a list of resources and keep this updated as I learn things.
Now I’ve only really used one printer but I think it’s given me enough of a workout keeping it running that I can talk somewhat intelligently about the pros and cons of different aspects of printers. Visit back soon and I’ll try to have a post written just about this.
You have a 3D printer, how it’s just a matter of hitting the print button and all your dreams come true, right? Well maybe, but it certainly isn’t that way with my printer. In this article I go through some of the common problems I’ve run across and how I work around them. Get the Most Out of Your 3D Printer
I tend to be pretty forgiving with most things when it comes to brands, but one of the things I’m not forgiving with is 3D filament. If your printer allows you to choose different brands do go with, whatever you do, don’t cheap out on you filament. I guarantee that when you’re several hours into a print only to have your nozzle jam on crap filament and ruin your project that you won’t be think “well, at least I saved a few bucks on this filament.” While I haven’t used every filament on the market, I’ve found two brands I’m pretty happy with: Proto-Pasta and Hatchbox. Both offer a variety of filaments, though I think Hatchbox might be a little cheaper. Both lay down incredibly smooth and I’ve yet to have an issue with them jamming my printer, a problem I’ve had with others. Both also sand really well if you’re interested in doing a little post processing with your prints.
Links (I don’t get any referral benefits from these, just for your benefit)
It seems like every day there’s a new micro-controller on the block, due to projects on Kickstarter, that’s probably true. My stuff falls into two categories really, with one really being my preference. For 99% of what I do, I’m using either an arduino board or more likely one of the arduino friendly Adafruit boards. You can use the Arduino IDE on them which is easy to use, and there’s a zillion parts you can add to it, libraries to add, and really do just about anything mechanical or using a sensor. They’re also relatively inexpensive. If your project is something the long the lines of “I need to detect this and then do this” one of these boards is probably fine. Within this realm I would just choose something that offers enough power and ports that you need while also getting the simplest board possible. I’m quite a fan of the Adafruit Feather series, though I think I’ll have to try their M0 series and use some circuit python.
The other one I’ve played around with a bit would be the Raspberry Pi, and while there’s a good amount of overlap between the two, their strengths make them separate beasts. While the arduino / Adafruit boards are micro-controllers, Raspberry Pi is truly just a small cheap computer. It’s much more powerful than these other boards and does a lot more. You can even use one as a desktop computer. Literally anything you might want to do with a computer but you don’t want to stuff your brand new MacBook Pro into some project, you can use a Raspberry Pi. I’ve used them to make retro game consoles, but people do things like facial recognition, making their own personal assistants, run web servers, etc. You can also control sensors and motors just like an Arduino, though it might take a little more effort to do so.
I buy pretty much all of my stuff online. Having a prime membership, it’s easy to settle for the free shipping of what I can find on Amazon, which is where I tend to get things like my filament, parts I need for my printer, or crafting supplies.
For things electronic, I can’t steer you to a better place that Adafruit, a company located in NYC. Seriously, just head over there. https://www.adafruit.com. Some of it’s stuff they design and make themselves, and some of it’s resold, but it’s all awesome. Best of all they’ve got great guides on how to use the stuff along with code examples.
Since my degree is in 3d animation, that’s where I come from as a 3D background, which means when in doubt, I’ll often open up a program like MODO or Zbrush when creating a model. Neither is accurate for a design that has to fit into the real world really well (i.e. a replacement part for something being 3d printed) but for stand alone pieces or something really organic, either work well. Just export as STL and spend a little time back and forth with the slicer making sure the end size is ok.
For true CAD work, I tend to buck the Autodesk trend and use this awesome little program for iPad Pro called Shapr3D. It probably sounds weird doing that on an iPad, but it’s worked really well for me. The program is pretty fully featured and can do just about whatever you want. Seriously, go check it out. Not only that, it’s just really convenient having the application on my iPad. Rather than getting inspired and having to go sit down in the other room on the computer, I can just sketch something out right on my iPad on the couch. Or on the go. It’s just convenient and intuitive, and it’d take a lot to convince me to move back to doing any sort of CAD on a computer.
Slicing is the process where your 3D STL model is converted to gcode, which your printer understands and uses to create your model. Not all slicers are created equal. The great part is most of them are actually free. You can find programs like Slic3r or Cura, both which work pretty well. However, if you’re already with shelling out some money on slicing software, look no further than Simplify3D. The support generation is awesome. Before Simplify3D I hated having to put supports in my models because they were always such a pain to deal with when removing. Not any more. While they take a little more filament to make, I’ve never had a support I couldn’t remove with just my fingers. In addition, there were just certain models that Slic3r couldn’t handle and Cura would take minutes to slice due to poly count. Throw those same models into Simplify3D and seconds later it’s ready to go. At $150 it’s not cheap, but I’m sure at this point I’ve made up the difference in what would’ve been failed prints in other programs.